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   I remember an old preacher saying many years ago, that we were living far below the privileges that attended our calling and election. And the reason? because we looked like … thought like … talked like … behaved like, all the rest of the world – blending in with all that is the rest of the world, instead of standing out from all that is the rest of the world; permitting the spirit of the age admittance, and its rule from the abundance of our hearts and advancing the warfare that rages between the will of the flesh and the will of Yahweh.
  But before proceeding further, I want to introduce two words to you, come from Ephesians 2:12: Commonwealth and Covenant – words related to each other, by definition and in practice and at the core of what follows.
  It’s far easier to profess and confess ourselves called out and separated – talking the talk, but hardly walking the walk – and to pretend sharing in the Commonwealth as an heir to the Covenants of Promise, than actually contributing to the Commonwealth and inheriting the Covenants of Promise through counting, then paying, the cost to the self: mutually pledging to one another, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
  Yes, it’s far easier to nurture an Ananias and Sapphira spirit who withheld to themselves more than what was convenient … and that to their destruction, than it is to live up to being manifestly declared the epistle of Messiah, known and read of all men.

Pattern, Type, Figure of the Sect of the Nazarene
   So, let us consider the profile of the first Sect of the Nazarene which is a pattern, type, figure shown us and which is expected by Yahweh, we should replicate.
  This Sect of the Nazarene had its inception with men, called, chosen, and ordained by the Master to continue and complete the work He had inaugurated, and Who unequivocally declared to them, “Ye are the salt of the earth … Ye are the light of the world … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven … By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Matt. 5:13, 14, 16; John 13:35). (King James Version used throughout, unless otherwise noted.)
  They could not, of course, have begun to continue and complete His work until that notable Pentecost when they had been endued with Power from on High, and then Peter … but one, “standing up with the eleven” (Acts 2:14) and noted as “unlearned and ignorant” (Acts 4:13) among them, spoke the first recorded message he had ever preached, and who had evoked from his audience such response that most Word expositors could only wish for: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
  So, with that introduction, let’s look at Scripture. Then they that gladly received his word were immersed: and the same day there were added [unto them] about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles, Acts 2:41-43.
  “… Many wonders and signs were done by the apostles …” And among the first recorded following that Upper Room experience, was “a certain man lame from his mother’s womb” (Acts 3:2) being raised up by the Apostles Peter and John – a work that caused no small stir among Jewry, a work providing yet another opportunity for Peter to practice his homiletical skills. We can only imagine the aura of these moments, because few of us have ever experienced being filled with wonder and amazement at some supernatural event.
  Few of us have ever experienced being filled with such wonder and amazement that gave occasion to respond,
    > “It was never so seen,” (Matt. 9:33);
    > “We never saw it on this fashion,” (Mk. 2:12);
    > “We have seen strange things today,” (Lk.5:26);
    > “Never man spake like this man,” (John 7:46).
  The Record of the first Sect of the Nazarene affirms that ‘signs, wonders, and amazements’ are the rewards that endure, the works destined to follow after the laborer and make up part of the pattern that we, too, should look toward with expectation. And what greater reward could there be, than that the Master should make addition to His Body of the such as should be saved, of them which are ordained to eternal life, and who are become the outcome of some manifesting themselves as ‘the salt of the earth and the light of the world,’ shining before men who are then moved to glorify Abba Yahweh … yes, even with words,
    > “It was never so seen,” (Matt. 9:33);
    > “We never saw it on this fashion,” (Mk. 2:12);
    > “We have seen strange things today,” (Lk. 5:26);
    > “Never man spake like this man,” (John 7:46).

Today, More Commotion Than Devotion
   But sometimes, instead of presenting ourselves as fervent in spirit and zealously affected in a good thing as they, we devise programs under color of ‘ministry’ to grow ourselves … taking stock of our deficits, yes; but as the manner of some, comparing ourselves with others and measuring ‘success’ in terms of numbers, rather than devotion.
  And so, like others, we inaugurate activities that cater more to the affections and lusts of the flesh than to create ministries that train, nurture and provoke faith and the doing of good works. We transform traditional venues of worship into contemporary and innovative, culturally-relevant ‘worship’ behaviors that excite more commotion than arouse what’s Good and Acceptable: Worship in Spirit and in Truth.
  We shift the original purpose of media ministries, from bringing the message to homebound shut-ins whose health or disability precluded them from physically attending services, to accommodating the manner of some to forsake the Assembling of themselves together – an easier alternative for some who, having no particular health or disability issue to preclude them from coming to Assembly, to stay at home, still in their night apparel, seated in a comfortable armchair, eating breakfast from a TV tray as they give half (or less) attention to the pulpit and half (or more) attention to such distractions that only a home can provide.
  It was recognized that the traditional venue of worship doesn’t hold much appeal to a generation given more to hip-hop and its accouterments of light and sound than to guarding the meditations of the heart (lest these should proceed as the speech of the lip). With respect to the person of this demographic, we transform what ought to have been set apart, into something as common as a sporting event.
  (Oh, yes, and we should be remiss if we didn’t mention that Assembly is a good place, too, to distract and draw away, tempt and entice, beset and overcome its attendees with casual, cultural relevance, as some come, attired as if they were going to a sporting event.)
  And then, because we strive to become all things to all men, we form youth groups and invite public high school students to come together with our youth to unchaperoned all-night lock-ins in the Family Life Center where, who knows what occurs there.
  Sabbaths, that ought to have been reserved for rest and a refraining from doing one’s own pleasure, moves over to the encroaching spirit of the age that assures us that we can handle giving into the flesh … you know, here a little, there a little, oblivious to the Truth that in giving Satan an inch, he’ll soon become a ruler!
  And because we want to be a today’s Assembly for today’s people, we host week-end get-aways for the young and the young-at-heart at the paintball emporium; marriage enrichment encounters for those needing a respite from the daily grind of actually making their nuptial covenant work. And not wanting to leave out the elderly among us, senior weekend excursions via motorcoach to Silver Dollar City and an evening with the Baldknobbers.
  All these, and more, rival tribute to a Sabbath service of worship.
  And to help finance all these ‘ministry’ undertakings, we open up for-fee child day care centers in the Assembly basement and cater to the gentiles by renting out our meeting halls for their wedding receptions and there also, convene trash-treasure sales, doughnut pastry sales, pancake suppers, Hillbilly auctions, Independence Day youth fireworks sales, salad tastings, etc., etc.
  And in the interest of public service, we provide space in the Family Life Center for Addictions Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery meetings.
   And the purpose of all this busyness? (Never mind that the King’s Business is left undone, or at best, unfinished.) Yes, as we were saying, and the purpose of all this busyness? If we can just expose what we have to the larger community, then maybe.

Getting Back to the Sect of the Nazarene
   But despite all this busyness, there was, and still is, no greater ‘sign, wonder, and amazement’ than a people becoming “the salt of the earth … the light of the world” so letting the light of their good works and their love for one another shine before men.
  Two times in the TORAH (Exodus 25:40 and Numbers 8:4) and once in the New Testament (Hebrews 8:5) we read the instruction Yahweh gave to Moses to make all the furnishings and apparel of the Tent of Meeting according to the pattern shown him at Sinai.
  And so, it is, if we want to see and experience the growth (spiritually and physically) – the Master adding to His Body daily such as should be saved – then we ought probably to look at the pattern which the Record of the first Sect of the Nazarene provides for that growth.
  Principally speaking, it was.
    • love that brought them together; and,
    • love that kept them together, sustaining them … even through trials occurring during perilous times of persecution, infirmity, distress, and necessity, to stay together.
  And the first principle underlying love is that they were all with one accord in one place – oh, maybe not necessarily altogether in one location, but certainly altogether, that is, perfectly joined together in mind, in speech, and in judgment … agreeing together, that they might walk together which might even, encourage such practice, of “breaking bread from house to house” (Acts 2:46) and provide that means by which we might know who among us were suffering or being honored, so that we could suffer or rejoice with them.
  It was precisely because they were perfectly joined together in mind, in speech, and in judgment that we are able to discern a pattern:
  And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all [men], as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Acts 2:44-46
  And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any [of them] that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.  And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of [Yahshua]: and great grace was upon them all.  Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid [them] down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need, Acts 4:32-35
  And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. …  And believers were the more added to the Master, multitudes both of men and women.) Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude [out] of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one, Acts 5:12, 14-16 
  Indeed, it was precisely because “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul” (Acts 4:32) that what’s become uncommon today, “great power” and “great grace,” were upon them all – yes, they, “the salt of the earth … the light of the world … a sign, wonder, and amazement …” so shining before men who in seeing their good works, had reason and cause to glorify their Father which is in heaven.

Conclusion: A Pattern Shown to Us, Also
   For [I mean] not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, [that] now at this time your abundance [may be a supply] for their want, that their abundance also may be [a supply] for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that [had gathered] much had nothing over; and he that [had gathered] little had no lack, 2 Cor. 8:13-15. 
   Yes, this the measure of their love – from each according to his ability; to each according to his need – fulfilling His Word, working no ill or hardship toward another; none saying of the things over which they were but stewards, were theirs … acknowledging rather, all they ‘owned’ was but ‘loaned’ them by Him from Whom every good thing, and every perfect thing proceeds.
  Yes, this the measure of their love – holding all things in common, so that it became common that without malice or malintent, each pledged to one another, their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor – that pattern being shown to us also, beholding how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity ~ a common practice for that First Sect of the Nazarene.

-Elder John Reece

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